Elena Gorolová

Fighting for the fundamental right of a woman’s right to choose

As the spokesperson for the Group of Women Harmed by Forced Sterilization in the Czech Republic, Elena Gorolová has broken not only Czech but also Roma gender stereotypes, by speaking out in public about her experience as a survivor of forced sterilisation and advocating for redress. Her efforts have brought this issue visible at the local, national, and international levels; and were further recognised when the Government of the Czech Republic acknowledged these harms in 2009.

Elena’s contribution to equality between men and women is that she has presented the Czech public, the Roma community, and the world with a clear example of a Roma woman who does not require a man to represent her or her interests to the outside world. She is not resigned to her victimisation but insists on speaking for herself and on behalf of all others harmed by these human rights violations, as she seeks redress for them.

To this day, Elena has a bitter memory of the critical moment in the delivery room when health care workers gave her a paper to sign. "No one told me what it meant, I was young," says Gorolová. Doctors sterilised her in 1990 at the age of 21. The doctors decided to sterilise her in the course of her second Caesarean delivery. Two or more Caesarean deliveries, was the most frequent reason cited as a precedent to sterilise. However, the women harmed by these sterilisations say the problem is that they never gave their informed consent to the surgery, nor were they given any information about sterilisation and what it really meant.

Elena is one of eighty-seven (87) women who sent complaints of being forcibly sterilised to the Czech Public Defender of Rights (the ombudsman). In December 2005, in his Final Statement on this issue, the ombudsman accepted that sterilisations performed on Romani women during the communist era had been of a eugenic nature. Both his report and cases litigated by the League of Human Rights now show that illegal sterilisations have continued up until today.

Relevant Information:

Ongoing Issues on the Forced Sterilisation of Women in the EU

  • The International Federation of Persons with Physical Disability, state that in light of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (which this year falls on 25th November), the European Disability Forum (EDF) joins the struggle against all forms of gender violence, to which thousands of women in the European Union and worldwide fall victim. All forms of sterilization without full and informed consent must be seen as violence.
  • The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women states: “Forced sterilization is a method of medical control of a woman’s fertility without the consent of a woman. Essentially involving the battery of a woman—violating her physical integrity and security, forced sterilization constitutes violence against women.” Source: Against Her Will. Forced and Coerced Sterilization of Women Worldwide